Friday, October 30, 2009

Folk Music and Campaigning

Sort of a misleading title in fact. More about what is Politics and whatever does it have to do with Folk--meaning People. People, after all, are the heart of folk music. That probably means we have to consider everything popular "folk"music; and that is probably correct to a great extent. Some people expect the twanging guitar or banjo for Folk and Piano and crooning for Pop and who knows what for Rap---and so on. I don't want to mislead you---this is not about music. It is about people--Folk if you will. It probably should be on The Almost Daily Rooster but, honestly, more people visit here than there so I say---why not here.

The band Chicago had a song a while back about Harry Truman and Christ Smither had So Long Harry Truman . By now you must realize that I have been thinking about him at this election time of year and how he relates to "folk" not music--just "folk"--"people".

Unfortunately I cannot post either song here due to copyrights but why not view the real thing:

You know what---he was the real thing. Even though at the time no one did imagine how strong and effective he would be. I include myself in that group.

I am surely not equipped to give you a full bio but just a few thoughts at this time of year and at a time when we so desperately yearn for leadership, honesty, and the common or human touch. It is possible for me to give you some brief insights into him, his humanity, and mostly his honesty. They will be brief and, hopefully, you can read more about him in a wonderful book by Merle Miller--"Plain Speaking".

In recent yesterdays and, even, today's we have seen "dithering", "lying", "potential votes counted", and so much more that would have never been done by HST---Harry S. Truman.

Think about these few interesting items---after seeing the picture of an honest man relishing an unexpected victory---well, unexpected by the polls:

Those of a certain age will recall the Chicago newspaper headline of DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN that printed before the results were in and that was what was fully expected. A NY D.A. was going to beat HST. Wow!. Think of it---a digression---can you think of Giuliani as Pres.?

Back to HST now. We spoke earlier of his honesty, determination, humanity, and lack of dithering.

As to the lack of dithering you must think only of Hiroshima and, while he surely had sleepless nights, he made a decision. No dithering there to explain his hope for the saving of many U S Military lives. You must also think of his determination in recognizing the state of Israel against the advice of his consultants because he felt it the "right" thing to do. Determination also in de-segregating the Armed Services. Hell, you cannot do everything at one time. The rest had to come later but groundwork was laid.

Another thing that has to be recalled is his involvement in the Korean Conflict (not war---technical thing) and his shutting down of a recalcitrant general. Recalcitrant is a mild term for the potential disaster he might have caused. Again--Merle Miller's writings will fill in the details much better I am doing.

When he left office he drove back to his home in Missouri with his wife, Bess (never a happy White House occupant), without any Secret Service escorts at that time and stopped at local eateries on the way.

True, it was a different time. The point, however, is he never wanted or received the pomp and panoply that later Presidents either expect or receive--or both. It is sad that now Presidents do have to travel in a "bubble" that seems like they are "pressing the flesh" but, in truth, cannot. JFK has changed all that. Sadly.

Digressing aside now. One other thing which one might find in his brilliant bio by Merle Miller; HST's belief that the Presidency should not be demeaned by commercialization. He refused speaking engagements for monetary reimbursement---OK ---paid speeches (you have to appreciate my trying to raise the level of writing)--with the explicit comment that the Presidency is not to be used for profitable gain for a President. Shades of ---pretty much all of our latter day Sainted Presidents---well, GWB does sell seats for only 5.00 or so---what a bargain. The point is---not 5.00 or 1,000,000,000 it is the sanctity of the Presidency. HST realized that.

We end with a humorous thought. The man was able to live with his wife who despised being a 1st lady, move back to his home in Independence (after that long drive with his wife) and live with his mother in law there who never did appreciate his presidency.

So--as Chris Smither wrote---Farewell Harry Truman. Where are you when we need you?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

THURSDAY--Another Edition of:

The weekly flip of the fedora to JIMMY CANNON

Nobody Asked Me But:

1) Do people really feel like insiders when they pay exorbitant prices at Yankee Stadium for food and “chachkes” that they could get at local establishments for a fraction? Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig sure missed out on some good shopping as their memories from the Park fade.

2) Aside from the promised replacement of the playing fields for the local community and promise of a business bonanza for the neighboring businesses what else did not come to be after all the interest free bonding that the city allowed for this big private business? Oh—right—the City’s luxury box with 12 seats---it won’t seat the population---it will seat I wonder who.

3) Gilbert & Sullivan –well, Gilbert—were correct with their song from The Mikado---Things Are Seldom What They Seem.

4) I am finally thinking Hillary and not Bill when the headlines speak of “Clinton in so and so and says such and such”. Old habits die hard.

5) Instead of giving GMAC a second bail-out all that money could go to pay off the mortgages of many potential home foreclosures and seems like a good idea since GMAC produces nothing except for problems.

6) Soccer seems a lot more exciting than what is called Football in the U S. Broken legs are better than brain damage in the comparison as well.

7) Is it possible that many well qualified people are overlooked for employment for lack of the paper trail of education?

8) What a wonder how no one ever dies on You Tube. They are always there to entertain and delight us from whatever place they are now in---thanks to people who post the videos/spinning discs/etc; and one has to wonder why they post them one also has to thank them for—as Bob Hope said—“.....the memories”.

9) It’s probably a good idea that people are tuned mainly to the commercial stations when they are at work since they don’t have to concentrate on mindless musical mishmash since the station on the left side of the dial (with the exception of 93.9) require comprehensive listening.

10) Sad to see that Bill Cosby got the Mark Twain American Humor Award that he has twice turned down because Richard Pryor received one earlier and Cosby disliked his profanity. The bible does say something about judging lest you be judged. Pryor was a classic wit and used profanity for a purpose and did not use profanity when there was a different purpose. Blandness does have its place and so it is probably proper to see that Bill Cosby getting his award after all. Is there a Nobel Prize for Blandness?

11) It is called The World Series; so, are Philadelphia and New York the World?

12) Does anyone remember when kids hit each other with socks filled with chalk for Halloween and didn’t trick or treat (you know before commercialism and fixed rules of decorum)?

13) Today is the day the Internet came into being---well, in embryonic form.

14) I wonder if people vote “for” candidates or “against” other candidates.

15) What would be wrong with Medicare for everyone since we all have found out the hard way how large corporations are dealt with by the government. Don’t call it Socialism---call it Self Preservation for the Citizenry that the government, allegedly, represents.

Monday, October 26, 2009


There are some record labels that bring us new material that is meaningful and also keep alive artists and genres that might be neglected or forgotten by different generations. Appleseed Recordings is a leader and one of the few that are in that group. Smithsonian Folkways is another.

Circuitously we are getting to the subject which is a wonderful new issue from Appleseed Recordings -- Pete Seeger "Live In '65". Recorded in February 1965 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, PA and restored to ---well, what do they say, "living color". It is a 2 CD set that brings you all the feeling of being at an early Pete Seeger Concert---the music, the commentary, the lightheartedness , and the amazing charisma of Pete Seeger. It is a wonderful mix of his blend of topical and traditional music captured in a live concert in his prime.

The restoration of these old tapes has been lovingly re-created and the quality of the audio is as if you are in the auditorium In fact, if you were to put this 2 CD set on you player and just sat back and listened you would be transported to another place and another time and realize what a good concert and what meaningful music is all about.

When I say "good music" I realize it is in the eye of the beholder. Still, recalling the chain that leads us to what we may call meaningful---the Ochs, Paxtons, etc; does not negate what is popular---and even Pete Seeger recognizes that by singing some Hit Parade pieces---OK they were from the 1840s. In fact, that was pop music and is now "folk". Would not Woody Guthrie's Talking Blues be a pre-cursor to Rap (which I do despise) if one is honest?

The bottom line to all this is that this CD from APPLESEED is really something to own and to just enjoy and, perhaps, realize that it is the roots for some of today's music and it got its material from earlier roots.

Moving on to some Program Notes and Updates Now:

On November 1 I am hoping to be able to air a brief conversation with Theodore Bikel on TRADITIONS and I will surely air it on November 8 on SUNDAY SIMCHA in anticipation of his one man program at the Baruch Auditorium of CUNY which will run from Nov. 8-Dec. 13. THEODORE BIKEL will be appearing in his own creation of a one man show (with music form others) entitled--SHOLOM ALEICHEM--LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS.

A show not to be missed.


As to TRADITIONS----Many of you may know that I usually play a segment that has to do with Story Songs---songs that talk of life's meanings and challenges. One of the major factors in that is RICHARD BERMAN. He will be, finally, joining me for a nice segment on Nov. 15. Some live and some recorded music from this professor and insightful musical innovator.

Not to leave SUNDAY SIMCHA out in the cold---THEODORE BIKEL joins me on Nov 8 and I do hope that you will be tuned in for a very special program on November 1. That day our Comedy Corner will be filled with some 29 minutes of the CAPITOL STEPS in their quarterly send-up of the political foibles of our "leaders". I am also proud to say that this program and WFDU are the exclusive outlet for the quarterly bits of humor and wisdom from this brilliant group.